Friday 28 October 2022

As The Wicked Watch by: Tamron Hall

Genre: Mystery/Crime 

Published: October 26, 2021 by: William Morrow 

Pages: 384 

Rating: 3.5/5 stars 

Jordan Manning is a star reporter in Chicago, and she continues to be a voice for the voiceless. After she covers a string of murders of young Black girls, Jordan becomes frustrated with how soon these girls are forgotten. When Masey James, a 15-year old girl is murdered, Jordan knows that she can turn her anger into action, and she seeks to use her reporting skills to solve the case. She quickly gains contacts within Masey's inner circles. But, solving a crime will prove dangerous, especially when the killer may be closer then she believes. 

I've never really watched Tamron Hall on tv, as she's not as popular in Canada as she is in the States. However, the name recognition definitely did make me intrigued to pick up this book, as a reporter writing about a reporter interested me. I knew that Hall would definitely use her skills to produce a factually accurate piece, especially one that provides the reader with an inside look at how newsrooms work. This book didn't disappoint, though there were some issues with it that I couldn't shake. So, let's get into it: 

First things first, I really appreciated Hall's sensitivity when writing a crime novel. As true crime becomes such an oversaturated market, full of insensitive portrayals of serial killers and disrespecting victims, I am always weary of reading crime books. Despite this book being fictional, I knew it would play off of the tropes of true crime. However, Hall handles the story with as much respect as possible, as these victims mirror the lives of real-life victims. Hall does well to show Manning's anger with the current justice system and how she seeks to correct it. I also appreciated how Manning slowly begins to learn how to deal with victim's families, and she seeks to teach others, especially the younger interns in her newsroom, how they too can be respectful towards grieving families. At no point did I feel like this book was just profiting off of people's interest in crime content, and I think Hall's expertise in the subject of news reporting really came through in that aspect. 

I also think that each character in this book was well-written. Of course, we hear everything from Jordan's point of view, but I actually liked learning about Masey's family the most. Her mother, in particular, is a frightened, obviously very shaken individual, who walks a fine line between wanting to fight for justice for her daughter but also wanting to be at peace. Jordan's interactions with Masey's mother were the most interesting to me, as I think Hall accurately portrayed a grieving mother who has to make some tough decisions, and whose opinions change based on new information she is given. Hall did a good job at showing how victim's families go through a range of emotions and opinions during an investigation, and that their grief is not a one and done process. 

I think Jordan was a strong character, and I didn't mind at all reading from her point of view. The problem I had with her, however, is not necessarily a reflection on her character, but how Hall writes about the investigative system as a whole. Manning is given free-reign to interview suspects, investigate neighbours, and head into crime scenes with not so much backlash at all. In real life, I can't imagine that a reporter would be allowed to be as involved in an active investigation as she was, as she was not a detective and yet knew more than the detectives did. It just didn't strike me as realistic that Jordan had as much freedom as she did and didn't experience any repercussions for clearly crossing boundaries in an investigation. In real life, I would imagine that detectives and police would be quite secretive towards reporters, and it seemed in this text that everything was an open book. 

I also found the ending to be slightly underwhelming. As I discussed, I really loved Masey's mother's character in this book. However, by the end of the book, once the crime is solved, we do not get to see her reaction to the events that unfolded. She just kinda fades into the background as an unanswered question, while Jordan experiences relief that the crime is solved. For someone who played such a big part in the ongoing build up in the book, to have her not be at the end to see the crime be solved really confused me. I wanted to know her reaction, and I was left guessing. 

Overall, this book left me conflicted. It wasn't awful, and had some strong points. But, I didn't leave it feeling fully fulfilled by the ending, and some things just struck me as unrealistic despite Hall being a reporter. I wouldn't not recommend it to people, but I also think that the mixed reviews are valid. 

Have you read As the Wicked Watch? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday 21 October 2022

Paperback's Pondering's: Changing Your Mind Is Ok

If you've read my past few month in review posts you'll know that I've been job searching with little to no success. I decided very early on into my masters degree that I didn't want to pursue a PhD like some of my peers. I firmly stated that I was done with school, that stepping foot into a university again would not be for me, and that I wanted to go right into the job market. I knew finding a job would be difficult, but I stayed determined and found contacts despite nothing really going through. 

Then, I was having a conversation with a few colleagues and some old professors, who were casually mentioning how great it is to be an academic, as you get to keep learning. I began pondering how I had so many unanswered questions from my major research paper for my MA, questions that had to be reduced to footnotes because they just simply couldn't be answered in a paper of forty pages. I began to consider how I had left my paper hanging, that I wouldn't get the chance to revisit it again should I choose to head into the job market so soon. It felt silly to let that learning side of me fall away so quickly. So, I changed my mind. I want to get a PhD. 

I told some friends at first who are currently doing their PhD's and they were extremely supportive. They gave me resources and helped me narrow things down to a few schools that would suit my project best. I met with professors at schools I was interested in and established contacts. Everyone at the schools I'm applying to have been so nice and supportive, and while I didn't really feel confident that I would be able to get a position in the job market, I feel confident that I can do a PhD. And that feels great. 

When I went to talk with an old colleague about my recent future shift, they sarcastically stated how indecisive I am. I was a bit offended, as I had gone to them for help and they immediately started judging my character based on the fact that it takes me a little bit longer to firmly decide what I want to do. I was like this when choosing to do a masters degree as well. I didn't think I wanted to pursue a masters, but after some suggestions by a few professors I jumped into the opportunity, perhaps a little bit later than some of my other friends who knew off the bat that they wanted to continue learning, and I ended up being very successful in the MA program. While it may take me a little bit longer to decide things, I can firmly say that I have never regretted a decision I made on my future after it was finally made. 

I think people forget that indecisiveness and changing your mind is often a symptom of mental illnesses. With my OCD and intrusive thoughts, I tend to overthink every decision before it is set in stone, worrying about every possible outcome and every pro and con. Something that I am constantly working on in therapy is the idea of accepting uncertainty, that I may not be certain about the outcome of every decision I make, but accepting that uncertainty will help me make decisions faster and focus less on the worrying. The point is, I don't need people besides my therapist pointing out how indecisive I am. I know this, and I'm working on it. I need them to know that even if I don't have a decision made before I've even finished what I was previously doing, that doesn't make me any less of a smart person, any less of a successful person, or a person undeserving of new opportunities. It just means that I need a little bit of extra time to come to those conclusions, and I am aware of this extra time I need and will adjust myself accordingly. 

I haven't yet submitted my PhD applications as they are due in the new year, but I know that whatever the outcomes of the applications will be, I want to continue to apply to PhD programs until I get in. I feel happy to stick with this decision. I'm here to tell y'all that changing your mind on anything in your future is ok. It is not worth sticking with a decision that makes you unhappy simply because you are embarrassed of how you'll be perceived if you decide on something else. If you're not confident in your decision, then the final decision hasn't been made yet. This post goes out to my fellow folks who just need a little extra time. Take your time on making that decision, and you'll find yourself much more successful in the long run. 

Are you indecisive? Have you ever changed your mind on an important life path? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Monday 10 October 2022

Four Aunties and a Wedding (Aunties #2) by: Jesse Q. Sutanto

Genre: Contemporary, Mystery 

Published: March 29, 2022 by: Berkley Books 

Pages: 293 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

Meddy Chan is engaged to her handsome college sweetheart Nathan, and wedding plans are in full swing. Of course, Meddy's meddling aunties and her doting mother have made their opinions on the planning known, especially since Meddy doesn't want the aunties' wedding catering business to cater the wedding, but instead have the aunties just enjoy the day as guests. The aunties propose that Meddy hire another wedding catering company run by a Chinese-Indonesian family just like themselves, and Meddy is immediately charmed by the company's photographer, Staphanie, who reminds Meddy of herself. However, things quickly turn devious when Meddy learns that Staphanie and her family are connected to the mafia, and they intend to use Meddy's wedding day to get some revenge. Soon, the aunties and Meddy become tangled into another criminal mess, all while Meddy tries to keep her big day, and her family, under protection. 

This is the second book in the Aunties series, the first one being Dial A for Aunties, which I absolutely loved. I adored the quirky humour of the book and the fact that Sutanto was able to weave a criminal mystery into a hilarious story of immigrant aunties and their antics. I knew I had to give the second book a try. I was delighted by the setting of a wedding, as I just love wedding-centred books, and the charm from the first book remains. I definitely think this book falls into the category of not outdoing the original, but overall, I found it to be a satisfying accompaniment. 

Like I mentioned before, I thought the setting of this book was fabulous. I thought that the aunties' occupations as wedding vendors in the first book made for a very entertaining story, as wedding settings can prove to be full of chaos, especially when opinionated family members are involved. But this time, the wedding that the aunties are preparing for is Meddy's, and we got to see how each aunty truly wanted Meddy to have the best day ever, even if sometimes their intentions could have been a bit overbearing. Sutanto makes it clear that although the aunties are meant to be a bit embarrassing and quirky, they truly do mean well, and the family dynamics of this book are meant to highlight the eccentrics of aunties in a lot of Asian families, as opposed to readers simply making fun of the aunties. I appreciate the aunties because they remind me a lot of the aunties on my Pakistani side: very much into gossip, heavily opinionated, and a little too obsessed with British culture. Still, I think whether you can relate your aunties to these aunties or not, you will find this story to be deeply joyous. 

I enjoyed getting to learn a bit more about Nathan in this book. We meet him in the first book as an accomplished businessman who has a heart of gold. Nathan and Meddy have such a sweet relationship, and he treats her aunties with so much respect. While the aunties try a little too hard to win over Nathan's British family, he never once disrespects them or pokes fun, he truly sees how much they care about Meddy and that's all that matters to him. I loved Meddy's and Nathan's positive relationship and seeing it flourish in this book was so awesome to read. 

I thought the mafia plot to this book was interesting. Meddy and Staphanie start by really connecting due to their family's similarities, and at first you think that a unique friendship is forming. Of course, very quickly it is revealed that Staphanie's family are into some shady business, and I thought the mystery plot of this book was handled with intense organization and well development, so that no plot holes were left. While it's hard to believe how the aunties could get into such an absurd situation again, part of the charm of this series is the absurdity of it all. It's supposed to be over the top, and I can appreciate that. 

I've read a lot of reviews of people saying that while they enjoyed this book, they didn't feel as wowed by it because the personalities of the aunties is already known at this point. And I could definitely agree. Since I already know the aunties are opinionated and eccentric, it was a bit more difficult to be surprised or engaged with their antics as I was in the first book. I don't know if Sutanto will ever be able to top the entertaining aspect of getting to know the aunties for the first time. While I will definitely read the third book, I wonder if eventually, the personalities of the aunties will wear off simply because I already expect what they're going to do. I suppose I'll have to wait and see. Still, if you have yet to explore the world of Meddy and her aunties, please do so! You won't be disappointed. 

Have you read Four Aunties and a Wedding? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Tuesday 4 October 2022

Month in Review: September

This past month brought...not many changes. In my previous Month in Review I talked about applying for jobs and keeping my fingers crossed, but there hasn't been much movement on that front at all. Applications are very difficult, but I'm staying positive. Here's what happened in September: 

What I Read: 

Finlay Donovan Knocks 'Em Dead by: Elle Cosimano: 4/5 stars 

The Prince and the Dressmaker by: Jen Wang: 5/5 stars 

Eve's Return by: Crystal Bourque: 4/5 stars 

Dancing with the Octopus by: Debora Harding: 5/5 stars 

Catch and Kill by: Ronan Farrow: 5/5 stars 

Our Voice of Fire by: Brandi Morin: 4/5 stars 

Favourite book of the month: Dancing with the Octopus by: Debora Harding surprised me. I picked it up on a whim from the library, not knowing much about it, and now I need everyone to read it. It was a fabulous memoir about a woman who was kidnapped as a teen, and how she dealt with PTSD and learning more about her family as she grew up. I think with all of the true crime "hype" in the world right now, more people should be turning to books like this instead of the more sensationalized media. 

What I Blogged:

My favourite post of the month was my discussion on Burning Out. I think burn-out culture is something that I never really paid attention to until it happened to me, and I was really proud of myself for admitting that I burnt out and reflecting on how to help it not happen again. 

Around the Blogisphere: 

Noel shares the Journal of a Tired Indie Writer 

Roberta asks if you Interact with Authors on Social Media 

Nicole lists books with Stunning Typography 

Life Stuff: 

Like I said before, September really didn't do much for me. While I'm still actively looking for jobs, I haven't really heard much back from anyone, which is disappointing, but also a sign of the times we're in. There's steep competition pretty much everywhere, and I can't expect to hear back unless I'm successful. I'll keep trying to put myself out there, and see how it goes. 

In fun stuff, I did start engaging in fun fall activities like apple picking and beginning to watch Halloween movies. October is such a fun month and I'm looking forward to getting some more baking done too. 

Playoff baseball starts this month, and this house is buzzing with excitement for the Toronto Blue Jays. Here's hoping they can pull out a win in the first round! 

So, that was my month. A little uneventful, but with some fun things sprinkled in. How was yours? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Sunday 2 October 2022

The Strangers by: Katherena Vermette

 Genre: Fiction 

Published: September 7, 2021 by: Penguin Random House Canada 

Pages: 337 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: inter-generational trauma, violence and racism against Indigenous women, addiction

The Strangers have fallen victim to a fractured system that seeks to tear Indigenous families apart. After moving from foster home to foster home, Cedar Stranger moves in with her estranged father and his new family. She struggles to fit into his life when all she wants is to be reunited with her sisters. Phoenix Stranger has just had a baby while being detained in a youth detention centre. She is worried that she will never know what freedom feels like, and she suffers mistreatment and abuse while being incarcerated. Elsie Stranger, the matriarch of the Stranger family, has lost two of her daughters, and turns to drugs and alcohol to cope through the trauma her family has gone through, while still trying to care for the youngest Stranger daughter, Sparrow. The Stranger women have been through too much in just a short amount of time, and they work towards being reunited, if the system will allow them to. 

The Strangers is a companion novel to Vermette's book The Break, which follows an accident that occurred in a small Indigenous community and how each resident witnessed the accident. However, you do not have to read that book first before going into The Strangers. Still, if you wish to revisit the characters in this book, The Break is also an extremely well-written text. The Strangers was a heart-wrenching book about familial ties and the resilience of Indigenous women even when the Canadian government has put in place systems to tear them down. I found myself going through a range of emotions within every page, and I kept wanting to turn the page and learn more about this family and if they would ever know peace. This book does deal with some heavy subject matter, so do please be careful, but overall, I found it to be a very valuable piece of work. 

Inter-generational trauma is a common topic explored in a lot of books by Indigenous authors, as sadly many Indigenous families in North America faced abuse at the hands of the government through things like residential schools and the Sixties Scoop. Vermette chooses to explore inter-generational trauma by using multiple perspectives from the same family. It is interesting to see Elsie's point of view, compared to that of her daughters. In particular, since not all of these family members live together, I got to explore how these women's environments impacted their social and physical wellbeing. Cedar being forced into the home of her father who she has never really known, and seeing that he has moved on in a way and developed a new family, was a really poignant moment, as I got to see how Cedar develops an understanding of family and what she can do to strengthen her's. 

Phoenix's point of view from the setting of a youth detention facility was a really integral part to the book. There has historically been an influx of the incarceration of Indigenous Peoples in Canadian detention centres. Phoenix is still a teenager, and yet she is forced to grow up too quickly by not only going to prison, but also having a baby while incarcerated. Vermette really explores how birth is already a traumatic experience, and is made even more traumatic by Phoenix not having autonomy over her body while she gives birth. While I don't know much about the correctional system in Canada, I could tell that this book was meticulously researched and taught me more about youth facilities and how Phoenix is both serving time for a very serious crime, but she is also the victim of crime herself. That connection between causing hurt but also being hurt yourself was made very clear in this book. 

Many Indigenous communities rely on matriarchies within their familial systems. The Stranger family is no exception. However, this emphasis on matriarchy is made complicated when Elsie is told that she is not fit to be a matriarch due to her struggles with addiction. But, these struggles did not turn up out of nowhere, rather they are a symptom of a continuous cycle of abuse that affected Elsie and the women before her. I really felt for Elsie. I wanted her to get better, but I also understood how difficult it would be for her to get to a place of healing. Still, she fights for her daughters, and in there lies her strength. I appreciated learning about Elsie's story, but I also understood that her story was not fictional, and is actually the reality for many Indigenous women in North America. 

Overall, I would encourage everyone to read The Strangers. While it is difficult to get through, if you are wanting to learn more about some of the issues faced by Indigenous women in Canada, then this book is a great start. Vermette is a powerful author and I am always privileged to read her work. 

Have you read The Strangers? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess